Watch Out for Scams Targeting Seniors

Watch Out for Scams Targeting Seniors

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In an era dominated by technology, scammers have found new avenues to exploit unsuspecting victims, and seniors are often the targets of scams due to perceived vulnerabilities.

From scam phone calls to text messages, e-mails, and even social media links, these criminals employ various tactics to deceive individuals, particularly seniors, into divulging personal information or parting with their hard-earned money.

With a belief that the elderly may be more susceptible to their schemes, these criminals deploy sophisticated techniques to manipulate and exploit their targets with the aim of draining their life savings.

Common scams

Phone scams — Scammers impersonate government officials, financial institutions or tech support representatives, claiming there’s an urgent matter that requires immediate action or payment. These calls often induce fear or urgency, coercing seniors into providing sensitive information or making payments.

Text message scams — Text message scams, also known as “smishing,” involve sending deceptive messages designed to trick recipients into disclosing personal information or clicking on malicious links. These texts may appear to be from legitimate organizations or individuals, but they are far from it and responding or clicking on a link can prove to be very costly.

E-mail scams — Commonly referred to as “phishing,” these scams involve sending fraudulent e-mails that appear to be from reputable sources. Scammers use various tactics, such as posing as banks, government agencies or popular retailers, to deceive seniors into providing confidential information or transferring funds.

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Social media scams — Criminals exploit social media platforms to target seniors through deceptive links or messages. They may create fake profiles or hijack legitimate accounts to establish credibility before luring victims into fraudulent schemes, such as fake charity appeals or investment opportunities.

Signs of a scam and steps for protection

Recognizing the signs of a scam is crucial for safeguarding seniors from falling victim to fraudulent schemes:

Pressure or urgency. Scammers often create a sense of urgency, pressuring seniors to act quickly without providing them with sufficient time to verify the legitimacy of the request. Do not take their word for it. Instead, take a step back and assess the situation calmly. Call one of your adult children or a trusted friend for advice.

Requests for personal information. Legitimate organizations typically do not request sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers or banking details, via unsolicited phone calls, text messages or e-mails. You should absolutely refrain from sharing personal information unless you initiated the interaction and trust the recipient.

Unsolicited offers or prizes. Be wary of unsolicited offers or prizes, especially if they require payment or personal information in order to claim.

Unusual payment requests. Scammers often request payment via unconventional methods, such as wire transfers, prepaid cards or cryptocurrency. Do not make payments through these channels, as they offer little to no recourse for recovering lost funds.

To protect yourself from scams, consider the following preventive measures:

  • Educate yourself — Stay informed about common scams targeting the elderly and familiarize yourself with the warning signs.
  • Verify requests — Verify the legitimacy of requests by contacting the purported organization directly using trusted contact information.
  • Be wary of links in e-mails, other messages — If you get an e-mail, text message or a message on a social media platform from an unknown sender, do not click on links. If it’s from your bank, for example, instead type the bank’s website address directly into your browser to contact them directly.
  • Install security software — Install reputable antivirus software and anti-malware software on your computer and smartphone to detect and prevent malicious activities. If you are not technically adept, ask your child or a grandchild who is at least a teen to help you.
  • Exercise caution online — Be wary of any messages from strangers online and on social media. Also, scammers may clone a close friend’s Facebook account using their picture. If you get a message on Facebook advising you to click on a link, call your friend and ask if they sent the message.

The final word on scams

Scammers are constantly preying on seniors, betting on their targets not being savvy and therefore easily duped. New scams are rising from the pits of the criminal underworld all the time. If you’re not vigilant, you could be one click away from having your bank account drained and your credit cards maxed out.

Don’t be duped — and be careful.

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